Meeker’s Better City plan moving toward implementation during 2016

MEEKER I Early in January, the Meeker Town Board approved $25,000 for the first year of economic development implementation of the economic development strategy established by Meeker, Rangely, Rio Blanco County and the town chambers of commerce.

The effort is to be supported by matching grants of $200,000 from the state Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) through its Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) over two years.
The “Rio Blanco County Economic Development Strategy, PHASE IV—Recommended Action Plan” was prepared over the course of the last year by Better City, a consulting firm out of Ogden, Utah. Economic Development Dirctor Katelin Cook said this next year of actual implementation work was put out for bid on Friday. Bids are due back by Monday and will be acted on by the county commissioners soon thereafter. Cook expects Better City to be one of the bidders on the work.
Better City’s “Phase IV Action Plan” contains recommendations for Meeker, Rangely and the county as a whole. Today we will look at Meeker’s part in the plan.
The Phase IV report is based on the firm’s community assessment, economic assessment and market analysis work for the county, towns and chambers of commerce over the past year. Better City maintains that its Phase IV recommended projects should be viewed as “catalytic projects” that will change the dynamic of the economic climate to the degree that other projects and concepts are allowed to move forward.
The primary focus for Meeker is a training facility to which visitors from all over will flock to as “The Place” to learn how to fly-fish, hunt and shoot, catering to firearms users and archery. Such a facility would be expected to attract retail and housing development.
The facility envisioned would be the first of its kind in the U.S. There is only one model existing worldwide and that one is in Germany.
The idea, according to Better City, is to improve Meeker’s environment, making it more attractive to future business owners, employees and families by building on the area’s recreation heritage, values and potential.
Better City emphasizes the need to do something different from the surrounding recreation-based communities.
Accompanying the development of this high-tech hunting and fishing facility is the redevelopment of downtown Meeker using the facility as a Highway 13 destination attraction with walkable corridors between downtown and the White River.
The proposed development is to be “mixed-use”—a venue that leverages Meeker’s strong hunting and fishing reputation while providing recreation, entertainment and housing opportunities for residents and visitors.
“The Place” would be a multi-discipline facility with indoor areas focused on firearms, archery and fly-fishing coupled to world-class opportunities in the outdoors surrounding Meeker.
The latest state-of-the-art education and training would be used. Envisioned are a 50- or 75-yard indoor shooting range with video cinema capable of safely handling up to .50 caliber ammunition and the use of high-resolution paper screens tracking actual or simulated footage of a variety of hunting scenarios. Participants would be able to use their own firearms and scopes or bows and arrows to practice long-range shots while high-speed cameras detect shot placement and create real-time reports back to the shooter. The use of muzzle-inserted laser would also be available.
Better City implores the resistance of any pull toward it becoming a “glorified arcade” similar to some retail store experiences. The facility would also be multi-use in the sense that it would serve community meeting functions and its large-screen theaters could be used for commercial films and the like.
Better City suggests the facility could then be used to establish competitions, festivals, rendezvous, and conferences that could be slated around existing events such as the cattle and sheepdog trials, hunting seasons, etc., to provide economic activity on a broader basis, capturing national attention and interest.
Better City acknowledges that establishing such an advanced facility and the redevelopment, including the multi-family housing to go with it, will require a “Herculean effort with the support of multiple public agencies, private investors and full support of the town.”
Their suggested action plan includes the following steps: refining the concept with the public; establishing financial justification; site options; strategic partnerships; operator recruitment; design and cost estimates; financing structure; and commercial retail development to accompany the facility. These will be the order of business for the ongoing consulting work.
Copies of the “Phase IV Recommended Action Plan” are available by email through contacting Cook at 970-878-9474 or katelin.cook@rbc.us.